Yep. Kitty litter can kill your cat. Some brands of kitty litter contain dangerous chemicals that can cause a whole slew of health problems in your cat… and even you. You just need to know which brands are safe and which brands are harmful. It’s totally easy to find out on the spot. You simply need to check the ingredient list.
When picking up a bag of kitty litter, look for sodium bentonite or crystalline silica in the ingredient list. If either is present, avoid that kitty litter brand like the plague.
Both ingredients are the main culprits of asthma, eye discharge, bowel issues, and a slew of heath problems in cats, and lung cancer, bronchitis and tuberculosis in humans. In other words, any type of kitty litter containing sodium bentonite or crystalline silica is very bad for you and especially your cat.
Sodium bentonite is a clay ingredient that expands to 15 times its original volume and turns into a hard mass when it comes into contact with moisture. While this adds convenience to kitty litter box cleaning, it poses a great threat to your cat’s health. When your cat digs in the litter, a dust cloud containing sodium bentonite forms. The cat inhales it and the clay expands when it hits his lungs, causing asthma and other lung-related health problems. Even kitty litter brands that claim to be 99% dust-free are dangerous, because your cat is perfectly capable of ingesting the hazardous ingredient while cleaning his paws. Shockingly, sodium bentonite is found in the most popular type of kitty litter: clay-based clumping litter!
Silica-based litter is not so much better. As you may have already figured, it contains crystalline silica, a compound that absorbs odors and moisture. Sound great? Not really. It is easily inhaled by anyone with a set of lungs, and can trigger all kinds of lung-related diseases in humans. As for cats, crystalline silica causes a fatal form of pulmonary tuberculosis called silico-tuberculosis.
Not only are clay-based clumping litter and silica-based litter extremely unsafe to inhale and ingest, they negatively affect the environment because these compounds can’t decompose any further. We send two million tons of kitty litter to the landfill each year, and since clay-based and silica-based are the first and second most popular forms of kitty litter, you can bet that we have millions of tons of feline fecal matter just sitting around. Lovely, isn’t it?
What kind of kitty litter can we use, then?
For starters, anything without sodium bentonite and crystalline silica would be a giant leap in the right direction. For those who are weary of checking the ingredient list of every single bag of kitty litter, here’s a list of three toxic-free types of kitty litter that are slowly growing in popularity (and conveniently found in big-box pet stores):
- Corn litter: Made from corn cobs, corn-based kitty litter is biodegradable and clumps really well compared to other environmentally friendly litter.
- Recycled litter: It’s not as bad as it sounds! Kitty litter made from recycled newspapers is super-absorbent and won’t stick to paws and get tracked all over the house. Some people even make their own recycled litter!
- Pine litter: A personal favorite of mine, pine litter is made of sawdust that has been cleaned, kiln-dried, and pressurized. It destroys odors without any perfumes or chemicals. Not only that, but pine litter is also super light! I can effortlessly lift a full box with my pinky finger.
Please keep in mind that some companies would try and deceive you by claiming that their product is “100% natural”, when it’s really packed with toxic chemicals. The best way to determine whether or not a brand of kitty litter is safe, check the ingredient list. The fewer unpronounceables, the better.
It’s never too late to switch to toxic-free kitty litter. You can also help other cat parents by spreading the word. Let everyone know what horrible things clay-based and silica-based litter are doing to their cats. The more aware people are of this problem, the more feline lives are saved.
[This is a post I wrote for PetMOZ.com. You can see the original post here.]